Armies of Liberation

Jane Novak's blog about Yemen

State dept runs interference for Saleh in USS Cole case

Filed under: USS Cole, Yemen, gitmo — by Jane Novak at 4:35 pm on Thursday, February 16, 2012

The military tribunal at Gitmo ruled today that Saleh cannot be compelled to testify as a witness in the al Nashiri case. I am shocked that Obama’s friend and vital US partner in the WOT wouldn’t voluntarily want to aid the US judicial system. Apparently Saleh was the one who supplied much of the information directly to the US about al Nashiri, as well as giving him sanctuary after the attack. But it begs the question: when did Saleh learn of the plot. It must have been “after” because the US wouldn’t have spent the last decade supporting a dictator while knowing he was complicit in a terror attack against the US military.

Boston Herald: MIAMI — Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is in the United States with full diplomatic immunity, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s legal adviser has written the Pentagon, and should not be compelled to provide sworn testimony for the Guantanamo war court.

State Department legal adviser Harold Hongju Koh wrote the letter Monday to the Pentagon’s chief war crimes prosecutor, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, opposing a request for a subpoena by lawyers for an alleged al-Qaida bomber facing a tribunal at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.

Saleh, 69, arrived in New York late last month and checked into the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The U.S. granted him entry for medical treatment of burns he suffered in a June attack at his palace mosque in the uprising to oust him from power.

Lawyers for Guantanamo captive Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, 47, argue that Saleh could provide critical evidence in the capital case. Al-Nashiri, who was waterboarded by the CIA, is accused of orchestrating al-Qaida’s suicide bombing of the USS Cole off Aden, Yemen. Seventeen U.S. sailors died in the attack that crippled the warship in October 2000.

U.S. investigators descended on Saleh’s nation after the attack to collect evidence for several U.S. terror prosecutions.

But al-Nashiri defense lawyer Richard Kammen said there’s public evidence that Saleh “sought to limit the investigation of the Cole bombing,” that “he personally handled evidence” and “members of his government are alleged to be complicit in the Cole bombing.”

Koh did not address the value or content of the testimony that Saleh might provide in the three-paragraph single page letter obtained by The Miami Herald on Wednesday.

His letter also makes no mention of Saleh’s medical treatment.

Rather, Koh invoked “the particular importance attached by the United States to avoiding compulsion of an oral deposition of President Saleh in view of international norms and the implications of the litigation for the Nation’s foreign relations.” He did not describe those implications in the letter.

Koh asked Martins to convey his analysis to the chief of the Guantanamo judiciary, Army Col. James Pohl, al-Nashiri’s trial judge, that “President Saleh, as the sitting head of state of a foreign state, is immune while in office from the jurisdiction of the Military Commission to compel his oral deposition.”

Defense lawyers disagree. In U.S. v. Nixon, Kammen said, the 1974 Watergate case found “a sitting president of the United States was not immune from questioning in a criminal case.”

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